How Electric Guitar Pickups Work...
For some reason, this subject has a shroud of mystique surrounding it. The truth is, how electric guitar pickups work is very simple. An electric guitar pickup is a magnetic transducer. This means that it changes the motion of the string to an AC voltage that can be sent to the guitar amp to be amplified. How does it do this?
The most common types of pickups consist of a magnetic core that has a very fine wire wound around it thousands of times. Single coil pickups like those found in a Stratocaster or Telecaster use magnetic rods for a core.
Humbucking pickups usually have two coils with steel poles made of screws and metal slugs. These come in contact with a magnet that is screwed to the bottom of the coil. The result of either design is a coil enveloped in a magnetic field.
When the string vibrates, it disturbs this magnetic field, exciting the electrons in the coil wire and producing an AC voltage that gets sent to the amp to be amplified. That's it..... it is really that simple. There are many factors that affect the end result such as number of winds, coil shape, magnet strength, and materials. We will work our way through these in future blog posts. Why Is it so important to remember a simple explanation of how electric guitar pickups work?
No matter our experience level with guitars, we all have experienced feedback. That piercing screech you have heard (or caused) at one or more music events.
Understanding the basic explanation of how pickups work can help control or eliminate feedback. Remembering that disturbing the magnetic field creates an AC voltage that creates a sound will remind us that to eliminate feedback, we need to eliminate unwanted movement and vibration in the guitar, and more specifically in the pickup. The video below will discuss how to do this in more detail.
Pickups aren't really a black art. As we have seen, they are quite simple. Stay tuned over the next few weeks as we dive deeper into the specifics of pickup construction and tone.